Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) is taking thousands of churches by storm around the world. This fast-growing inner-healing technique is an offshoot of Agnes Sanford's teachings. Sanford, deceased for over two decades, advocated healing of the memories through mystical prayer. She taught that one should visualize a past situation, and then envision Jesus coming into the memory to solve the problem.
In TPM, a Theophostic-trained facilitator asks the ministry recipient to drift back and identify the first memory he or she can remember in which was felt the same negative emotion that has been "triggered" in the present time and is the current source of trouble. The facilitator helps to identify a lie embedded in that memory, such as, "I'll never be safe." The recipient then prays to Jesus to reveal the truth with the expectation that both the lie and the emotional pain will be vanquished.
Ed Smith, who launched Theophostic Prayer Ministry in Campbellsville, Ky., in 1996, says Theophostic facilitators "ask the Lord to reveal His truth" as clients "watch for, listen [to] and feel" a special revelation from Jesus, who "has the ability to enter into our historical moment and reveal truth in the experience."1 The TPM facilitator then declares that the source of the revelation is actually Jesus.
"During Theophostic Prayer Ministry, demons sometimes masquerade as Jesus, appearing visually in people's minds looking like Jesus," warns Smith. But, don't be alarmed by this, he says, as it's easy to spot the demonic imposter.2 "I have found that when a person looks carefully at the face of a demon ‘Jesus,' it will usually be dark or hazy, or look angry, scornful, or evil."3 Smith also warns against all forms of channeling or divining the future using TPM, because he admits that facilitators have used it for divination.4
In TPM, truth is defined by how it feels, and Smith elevates a mystical encounter with Jesus over teaching and discipleship. He warns of "clutter"5 that can hinder TPM, which includes logical thinking, because this will interfere with receiving truth.6 In Smith's thinking, the mystical method must take place before teaching, insight, and encouragement can have any effect on the person's emotional distress. Smith says: "As Christians are released from their lie-based thinking, they will be better able to appropriate the biblical instruction they receive through other cognitive venues....We need to experience the freeing presence of Christ in our lives so that we can absorb the Word of God and be changed by it."7
Smith claims that a feeling of peace validates the entire mystical experience as being from God, and this "Peace rarely, if ever, comes via the cognitive instruction of the facilitator/counselor. If cognitive truth resulted in peace, our churches would be full of peace-filled people."8
In Smith's view, preaching, teaching, and discipleship-non-mystical means of receiving God's truth-do not enable believers to fulfill Col:3:15's command to "let the peace of God rule in your hearts...." However, this verse follows Paul's commands in the previous verses to "set your affection [to exercise the mind] on the things above"; to "mortify [subdue] therefore your members which are upon the earth" and "put on...mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another...." Smith claims that these cognitive activities are useless in obtaining the peace of Christ.
Following strong criticism of his earlier training materials, Smith's latest manual now has frequent, highlighted warnings against the generation of false memories during TPM. Obviously, if one has to sign a "hold harmless" agreement9 before engaging in TPM, as Smith recommends, TPM carries significant risk for legal liability.
In Smith's previous writings, he advocated sneaking TPM past local church leadership by avoiding the name "Theophostic" until people in the church have experienced it through miracle healings, thereby building an experiential argument for the method.10 Smith has now changed his advice. Although he warns of a "Deacon George," who may claim TPM "is of the devil," based on web-based reports by apologists,11 he now compares a church's rejection of TPM to a body's rejection of an organ transplant.12 So, his advice is to compromise the local Body's immune system from the pulpit. Smith recommends that the "preaching pastor...gradually move a congregation in the direction of embracing the principles taught in this manual....Many people have never been exposed to this type of thinking and, as a result, may need some time to process it."13
God's lambs are hearing sermons straight out of Smith's TPM manual without knowing they are surreptitiously being prepared for a Theophostic invasion in their church.
Smith previously developed a new theology he calls "lie-based theology," which stands in contrast to "sin-based theology [which] believes that the root of my problem is my sin." Smith said he realized sin-based theology "is a misconception and a grave error," because, he notes: "it doesn't work."14
In his 2005-revised training manual, one of Smith's original nine Theophostic principles-"God heals the lost and saved equally with no preference over either"-quietly disappeared15 Smith says of TPM, "People consistently say it was from God. This is even the case with those who do not profess any relationship with God."16 And, later he says, "God does not seem to require confession of sin from a nonbeliever."17
But how can a lost person have the "peace of Christ"-that which Smith defines as the end result of Theophostic healing? If a lost person can have it, and claims that God showed it to him, then it's not the peace of Christ: it's a false gospel! If a lost person gets a word of truth from Jesus without repentance, it's a false Jesus!
Smith has consistently shifted his terminology, switching from "genuine recovery" to "genuine renewal," and repackaging his concepts to stay ahead of critics, and also to ensure that TPM remains appealing to conservative churches. Don't be fooled by cosmetic changes! Theophostic Prayer Ministry's core premise18 continues to promote a false Jesus and a false gospel. (Jan Fletcher is a Christian journalist who has reported on TPM since June 2003.)